Growing up I often heard the saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” I think with books this is sometimes true, sometimes not. I could list several books which I could tell by the cover would not be worth reading. But other books were nothing like I expected from the cover.

I think with people, this saying is also true. We shouldn’t judge someone by his or her outward appearance. However, I think there’s more to it than that. I think we should remember that whatever “cover” a person has, there is always a story behind it.

For instance,

– the sweet old lady who always smiles at you at church…may have been a pioneer missionary who gave birth to triplets in the jungle, then painfully watched as one by one they went to be with Jesus.

– the coworker who does his job faithfully and cheerfully…may have been held hostage by communist guerrillas in a foreign country.

– the neighbor lady who always smiles and nods as she passes your house walking her dog…may have survived two abusive marriages and still lives with the painful repercussions.

– the young man with the long hair and faded clothes, riding his bike down the street as you drive past…may be temporarily homeless because of mold illness and chemical sensitivity, just trying to survive day to day.

Believe it or not, these examples are based on true stories of people I know. But if I only looked at their outside and walked on by, I’d never know the stories they carried.

I know what it’s like to feel overlooked and dismissed because of my appearance. And I know I’m not the only one. Recently God has been opening my eyes to see that each person has a story, no matter what “cover” they show on the outside.

What if we took the time to stop once in a while and ask someone for their stories? park bench

We might hear a great testimony of the faithfulness of God and be richly blessed.

We might hear a heartbreaking tale of suffering and be a blessing simply by listening.

We might make a new friend, discover things in common, or find a true kindred spirit.

Every person is valuable to God. Every one of us has a story. I believe we are blessed as we continually give and receive the stories God is writing in our lives.

I’m praying God will help me know when to stop and listen to the story behind the “cover.” What about you?

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” -Philippians 2:4


By Joanna K. Harris

Joanna Harris is an author and blogger with a tremendous passion for God.  You can contact Joanna here.  For more on Joanna and her ministry, check out her website here.  There you can also find links to her other blogs.

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